Lower. Tractatus de Corde

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Lower. Tractatus de Corde

12,500.00

Lower, Richard. Tractatus de Corde. Item De Motu & Colore Sanguinis, et chyli in eum transitu. Amsterdam: Daniel Elzevir, 1669. First Elzevir edition.

Octavo (6 3/8” x 3 3/4”, 156mm x 94mm). Binder’s blank, ∗8 A-O8 P4, binder’s blank [$5 signed (–∗1, –P4)]; 124 leaves, 7 long folding engraved plates at end; pp. [16], 232. Collated perfect with the copy in the BCU, Lausanne.

Bound in contemporary full speckled calf. Gilt roll on edges of covers. On the spine, five raised bands with gilt dentelle. Six gilt double-ruled panels with fleuron and additional floral rule at heel. Title (LOVVI | DE | CORD) in second panel. Edges of text-block speckled red.    

Lower fore-corners lightly worn, upper fore-corners bumped. Gilt roll on edges of covers worn in places, especially along fore-edges. Faint scratches to front cover. Faint scratch to rear cover. Small light stains to rear cover. Superficial cracking to joints, with tiny chips in places. 1” split to upper front hinge; does not affect integrity. Head-piece worn toward front hinge, with binding ribbon visible. Tail-piece worn away, with binding ribbon visible. Gilt to raised bands largely worn. Covers gently splayed, due in part to folding plates at end. Mild tanning to edges of end-papers. Moderate stain to title-page, extending to ∗4. Very scant foxing, and paper quite bright. No evidence of repair or replacement of any kind. A remarkably tight,  unsophisticated, unmolested copy.

Three markings of ownership. First, “RC” faintly penned to upper edge of front paste-down, which has offset onto first free end-paper. Second, signed in an early hand, darker ink written over lighter, on title-page: “ex Libr:F:J: | Becquie med | audomar”, that is, “from the library of Doctor F.J. Becquie, St. Omer (France)”. First initial and first letter of surname uncertain. Third, a red wax-seal on the rear paste-down, chipped on left and lower edges, bearing a sigyll of a potted tree (pomegranate?) in an urn, and the legend: [QVI⋅MISC]VIT⋅VTILE⋅DVLCI. 

Frustratingly little can be gleaned from the ownership marks, nothing from the first. The second places the book in the hands of a medical doctor in St. Omer, some 160 miles from Amsterdam; the book was not very intensively read, it would seem. The third, a tantalizing scrap, takes its legend from Horace, De arte poetica 343(-4): omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci/ lectorem delectando pariterque monendo: “he wins every point, whoever blends the beneficial with the sweet/ by pleasing the reader and by teaching him as well”. Doubtless the mark of a bibliophile, but who?

Richard Lower was educated at Westminster School and at Christ Church, Oxford (like John Locke, who was a year or so behind him), and it was in Oxford, a generation after Harvey fully described the circulation of the blood under the action of the heart, that his experiments concerning the flow of blood and its interaction with air began.  In the Tractatus de Corde, Lower describes his pioneering research into the cardiopulmonary system (including distinguishing arterial and venous blood), the transfusion of blood, and the relation of the circulatory and gastrointestinal systems.  There are two issues within 1669, the earlier (by about three months) being London: John Redmayne. The Redmayne issue is found in two states, the first being exceptionally rare. Lower feuded with Edmund O’Meara, an Irish Galenist, who had published a pamphlet excoriating Lower’s friend and master, Thomas Willis. Lower, augmenting an insult to O’Meara, caused a cancellans to be printed (A6); most copies of the London issue contain the cancel. The Elzevir edition is based on the text containing the cancel. A true second edition (auctior et emendatior, and containing the beginnings of Lower’s work on catarrh) appeared in 1670. The seven long folding plates at the end (which were re-engraved from the London edition, “and are superior to that of the London edition” [Fulton]) are most remarkable, illustrating the flow of the blood as well as Lower’s experimental methods.

Fulton Lower 6; Grolier Medical 100, 34; Printing and the Mind of Man 149 (London issue).

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